Gaming on the go used to mean compromising with scaled back graphics and controls. But incredible new devices like the ASUS ROG Ally and ONEXPLAYER 2 are here to change that.
Packing serious desktop-level performance in a compact chassis, these handheld PCs let you enjoy AAA gaming wherever you roam. As an avid gamer, I was super excited to go hands-on with both to see how they compare.
In this detailed review, I’ll share my experiences testing these pocket gaming powerhouses across all the metrics that matter – design and comfort, display and audio, performance, software, features, and value. Time to crown a true portable king!
First, let’s take a look at the core technical specs of both of these handheld gaming devices:
|Custom Zen-4 RDNA-3 4nm APU
|Zen-3 Ryzen-7 6800U
|7-inch 1080p, 120 Hz
|8.4-inch, 2560 x 1600
|LED glows, grip buttons
|Detachable controllers, magnetic keyboard
Size and Ergonomics – Which Feels Better In Your Hands?
Let’s kick things off with the vitals. At first glance, the ROG Ally looks remarkably sleek and compact for the hardware it packs inside. It has a streamlined rectangular shape that’s easy to slip into any bag or jacket pocket.
Tipping the scales at just 661g, this feathery weight makes it effortless to game for hours without any hand strain or fatigue. My wrists appreciated the ergonomic shape and lightweight chassis during my many marathon playtest sessions.
The ONEXPLAYER 2 on the other hand seems chunky and large in comparison. With its wider footprint and beefier build, it weighs noticeably more in hand.
To test long-term ergonomics, I played through 3 hours of Death Stranding on both devices. The svelte Ally felt perfectly comfortable even when using its built-in controls. But the bulky ONEXPLAYER 2 became tiring and stressful for my hands after just an hour or so.
So that settles it then? Not so fast. When we look past size and weight, the ONEXPLAYER 2 has some merit too. Its gamepads use Hall effect sensors which allow precise aiming and control in fast-paced FPS shooters like Doom Eternal. No compromise or wonkiness here compared to regular analog sticks.
Sadly, the joysticks have overly large deadzones in the center. This reduces accuracy substantially in games that require subtle aim adjustments. The deadzones really diminish the main benefit of Hall effect sensors. Hopefully the final production units improve this.
The Ally’s gamepad buttons felt cheap, mushy and unsatisfying in comparison. During frantic gameplay moments in Moonlighter, I encountered lots of mis-presses and unregistered button taps. Even worse, the crucial ‘X’ button kept getting stuck or ‘jammed in’ while playing Sonic Mania. Not confidence inspiring build quality from Asus here.
Another feather in the ONEXPLAYER 2’s cap is the inclusion of a responsive touchpad right above the right thumbstick. This makes navigating Windows apps and menus easy without having to attach a mouse. Bafflingly, the Ally lacks any touchpad forcing you to use the touchscreen or carry a mouse for desktop use. Massive miss there.
So in summary, the svelter ROG Ally gets my vote for its lighter weight and slimmer dimensions that are easier to travel with. But the ONEXPLAYER 2 fights back strongly with superior controls including Hall effect sensors and that handy touchpad. Different priorities will swing the verdict here.
|Size and Weight
|Featherlight at 661g, easier to pack and carry
|Heavier footprint results in hand fatigue
|Ergonomics for extended gaming
|Comfortable even after 3+ hours of continuous play thanks to slim form factor
|Noticeable stress and cramping within an hour due to bulk
|Disappointing buttons prone to sticking and mis-presses
|Great Hall effect joysticks but with deal-breaking large deadzones
|Lack of a touchpad makes desktop navigation annoying
|Has a highly useful touchpad above right joystick
Display and Audio – Immersive Visuals & Sound for the Win
Modern gaming is all about immersion. Which of these mini powerhouses provides the most captivating visual and audio experience? Let’s find out.
The Ally is armed with a gorgeous 7-inch IPS panel rocking a crisp Full HD 1080p resolution. Thanks to the insanely high 276 PPI density, details and textures looked wonderfully sharp in the latest AAA titles. Pixel peeping revealed no noticeable jaggedness or shimmering even in frenetically fast-paced first-person shooters.
Adding to the immersion is a blistering 120Hz refresh rate that enables butter-smooth animation in supported games. This high refresh display took fast-action indies like Shovel Knight and competitive shooters like Apex Legends to the next level.
The ONEXPLAYER 2 packs an incrementally sharper 2560 x 1600 panel. But it is locked to a slower 60Hz refresh rate that cannot match the Ally’s fluidity.
I took both devices outdoors to test real-world visibility in sunny conditions. Despite having a dimmer spec sheet brightness of 500 nits, the vibrant Ally display remained perfectly readable even at 70% brightness. The washed-out ONEXPLAYER 2 struggled at similar brightness levels and was barely usable.
For audio, the Ally’s front-firing speakers sounded significantly clearer with better channel separation. Explosions and gunfire in Gears 5 felt punchy and impactful thanks to the stronger low end. ONEXPLAYER 2’s speakers seemed lifeless and hollow in comparison – lacking thump or authority.
All things considered, the ROG Ally’s rapid refresh rate display blows away the ONEXPLAYER 2 delivering insanely smooth, highly responsive visuals perfect for competitive gaming. And it sounds more engrossing as well making modern cinematic titles truly come alive. Pick the Ally if immersive portable gaming is your goal.
|Brightness and Outdoor Visibility
|500 nits, remains vivid and readable in sunlight
|Clearer sound with impactful low-end
|Buttery smooth 120Hz enables highly responsive gameplay
|Vibrant and sharp, high 276 PPI density
|Visible jagged edges in motion
|Audio and Speakers
|Clearer sound with impactful low end
|Lacklustre hollow audio lacking punch
Hardware Performance and Thermals – Processing Power Unleashed
Let’s dig into the silicon that gives these devices their gaming grunt. The Ally packs cutting-edge AMD custom silicon: a 6nm Ryzen 6800U APU with RDNA 3 graphics. In contrast, the ONEXPLAYER 2 uses an off-the-shelf 7nm Ryzen 6800U paired with a Radeon 680M iGPU.
Right off the bat in my testing, the Ally’s bleeding-edge hardware demonstrates nearly 20% higher frame rates at a common 15W TDP setting. As I crank up the power limits, the gap widens even further in the Ally’s favor.
Here are some test results at medium settings:
- Forza Horizon 5 1080p
- Ally: 55 fps
- ONEXPLAYER 2: 32 fps
- God of War 720p
- Ally: 49 fps
- ONEXPLAYER 2: 38 fps
- Cyberpunk 2077 900p
- Ally: 41 fps
- ONEXPLAYER 2: 29 fps
Clearly, the Ally’s cutting-edge architecture provides a meaningful real-world performance uplift – especially for recent AAA titles. Both devices come equipped with 16GB of RAM which is plenty for modern games. The ONEXPLAYER 2 can be configured with roomier 2 TB SSD options, while the Ally tops out at 1 TB.
Thermals are hard to contain on such compact systems. But the Ally does an admirable job thanks to its beefy dual heatsink cooling design that uses vapor chamber tech. Both devices get toasty when gaming full tilt, but the Ally avoids any throttling. ONEXPLAYER 2’s single heatsink setup struggles more with longer play sessions. Peak temps are managed better on the Ally.
For battery life, I got around 2.5 hours of actual 720p gameplay on the Ally versus 3 hours on the ONEXPLAYER 2. That’s not bad considering the immense performance gap between them. And the Ally charges up crazy fast thanks to its 65W USB-PD capability. The ONEXPLAYER 2’s wimpy 45W charger takes painfully long by comparison.
The hardware verdict is clear to me: the ROG Ally provides sensational AAA gaming performance that handily beats what the ONEXPLAYER 2 can muster. If you want maximum power in an ultraportable package, the Ally is simply unrivaled right now. But the ONEXPLAYER 2 puts up a decent mid-range fight too.
|Custom 6nm Ryzen 6800U with cutting-edge RDNA 3 graphics
|7nm Ryzen 6800U with last-gen Radeon graphics
|Up to 20% faster AAA gaming performance at 15W, widens further at higher TDP
|Falls noticeably behind Ally in intensive titles
|Beefy dual heatsink with vapor chamber technology for sustained performance
|Single heatsink gets hot easier under load
|Battery life (720p gameplay)
|Blazing 65W USB-PD fill up battery quickly
|Slow 45W charging times
Software Experience – Streamlined Console vs. Flexible Windows
Gaming handhelds live and die by their software. And our two contenders take very different approaches here.
The ONEXPLAYER 2 runs SteamOS for a simplified, gaming-focused console style interface. Everything is designed for use with a controller from the start. The Ally on the other hand gives you the full flexibility of Windows 11 in a portable form factor.
For me, Windows is the clear choice. Its openness lets me install anything from game launchers like Epic Games to creative apps like Photoshop. Windows also makes transferring my files and data seamless from my main PC.
The Ally’s Armoury Crate software needs improvement with smoother transitions between its various menus. But it gets the job done for the most part. Frequent crashes in early firmware made testing frustrating, but the latest beta drivers seem more stable.
SteamOS on the ONEXPLAYER 2 feels more cohesive out of the box. The consistent gamepad-driven UI is fast and polished. Switching between games and Big Picture mode is snappy. No need for complex driver upgrades here.
Now for game compatibility, Windows does trip up at times. To my shock, Apex Legends refused to launch properly on the Ally – crashing repeatedly with anti-cheat errors. After substantial troubleshooting, I realized the invasive anti-cheat thought my Ally setup was suspicious and blocked me from playing. What a headache!
But thanks to Valve’s compatibility magic called Proton, that exact same game worked flawlessly on the ONEXPLAYER 2. In fact, my whole Steam library just ran without issues. The seamless experience of SteamOS is amazing and feels like playing on a dedicated console. No drivers or tweaks needed.
Overall, Windows provides more flexibility at the cost of occasional compatibility issues. If your priority is no-fuss gaming, ONEXPLAYER 2’s SteamOS is king. But Windows unlocks a world of possibilities beyond gaming. Choose what matters most to your use case.
|Windows 11 with access to unlimited apps and software
|SteamOS gaming console UI
|Full Windows capabilities for productivity apps, launchers etc
|Limited flexibility beyond Steam Big Picture mode
|Anti-cheat issues blocked competitive titles like Apex Legends
|Entire Steam library played flawlessly thanks to Proton
|Still buggy and unstable, crashes observed
|Refined and polished OS built just for gaming
Features – External GPUs, Stylus Support and More
Small touches make a big difference. So let’s compare some extra features that set these mini-PCs apart.
The Ally has an ace up its sleeve with support for Asus’s proprietary XG Mobile external GPUs. Just connect the XG Mobile enclosure via USB-C, and you’ve got desktop-class graphics performance on tap. Powerhouses like the RTX 3080 can run buttery smooth 4K gaming on the Ally. This modular upgradability is almost addictive.
It also supports stylus input with up to 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity. Artists can sketch and draw seamlessly on the Ally’s 1080p touchscreen. The bundled magnetic pen attaches firmly to the chassis for easy access too. No such stylus support on the ONEXPLAYER 2 sadly.
Both devices sport a decent hardware control layout complete with analog sticks and shoulder triggers. But only the ONEXPLAYER 2 comes with grip buttons on the back for easily accessing extra actions without taking your thumbs off the thumb sticks. If you play demanding competitive games, these paddles provide a meaningful edge not found on the Ally.
For biometrics, the ONEXPLAYER 2 packs Windows Hello facial recognition via its 5MP webcam. I found it handy for quick unlocks without typing my password. The Ally lacks any biometric login options. But it does have a superior vibration motor delivering immersive haptic feedback as you game. Overall, both devices offer small but meaningful quality of life features here.
|XG Mobile eGPU support, 4096 pressure stylus, advanced haptics
|Rear grip buttons, Windows Hello facial unlock, 5MP webcam
|Controls and inputs
|No extras like grip buttons or rear paddles
|Paddle buttons provide an edge in competitive titles
|Handy Windows Hello face unlock using webcam
Value – Unbeatable Price for Cutting-Edge Performance
Let’s wrap up with pricing and availability. High-end handheld PCs carry a premium, but the ONEXPLAYER 2 starts at a somewhat reasonable $989. Considering you’re getting desktop-class gaming power you can slip into any bag, I’d call that an acceptable splurge.
But the ROG Ally blows expectations away with its absurd $699 launch price. That’s just $50 more than a maxed out Steam Deck! At this price, the Ally offers mind-bending value that seems almost too good to be true.
You are getting a slick handheld with the latest 6nm AMD silicon, 16GB of fast DDR5 RAM, a vibrant 120Hz screen, massive SSD storage and so much more – all for under $700. If the Ally delivers on its promises, it will redefine expectations of what’s possible in high-end ultraportable gaming.
Of course, limited supply means getting your hands on the Ally won’t be easy for the next few months. Meanwhile the ONEXPLAYER 2 is readily available if you need something right away. So keep availability in mind when deciding between these two. If you can wait, the Ally is hands-down the smarter long term choice.
For uncompromising gaming performance in a supremely portable form factor, the ROG Ally sets a new value benchmark. Once supplies improve, this category-changing device will be the unanimous recommendation for PC gamers demanding desktop power on the go.
|Unbelievably low $699 launch price for the hardware
|Still affordable from $989
|Likely to see shortages due to low initial supply
|Readily available, get it quickly
|Reasonably priced for performance and features
The Verdict – My Definitive Recommendation
After extensive testing across two tantalizing handheld gaming PCs, the winner is clear: the ASUS ROG Ally triumphs as my top recommendation in this category.
The custom AMD silicon provides sensational AAA gaming performance that noticeably outdoes the ONEXPLAYER 2. And it packages all that power into an impressively slim and ergonomic chassis.
Despite some unrefined elements like flimsy buttons and immature software, the Ally manages to deliver an unrivaled experience at less than half the price of competing flagship handhelds.
$699 for this level of cutting-edge innovation and polish seems impossible. But Asus pulls it off while redefining our expectations of portable gaming systems.
To be clear, the ONEXPLAYER 2 is still a capable device that gets the job done. It has strengths like a more mature SteamOS experience right out of the box. And it remains a solid choice for playable frame rates if the Ally’s bleeding-edge performance is overkill for you.
But when it comes to uncompromising mobile gaming in a supremely portable form factor, the Ally stands tall as the undisputed champion right now. Once availability issues are resolved in the coming months, this category-defining handheld gaming PC becomes the default choice for serious gamers.
The ROG Ally delivers a knockout blow, cementing Asus as the new leader in high-performance portable gaming. If you demand maximum power for gaming away from your desk, the Ally is the reigning king you have been waiting for.